Siebel to offer custom-built CRM solutions

LOS ANGELES — Siebel Systems wants to tap into what it says makes up about 75 per cent of the CRM market — companies that want their own custom-built applications.

Until now, Siebel has only been providing pre-packaged solutions,

said Mike Lawrie, Siebel Systems Inc.’s newly-crowned CEO during a keynote address at Siebel User Week. The company will now work with partners such as IBM to provide pieces of software as they build custom applications for users. Prior to this move, a customer that wanted to take advantage of the San Mateo, Calif-based Siebel’s offerings had to buy the whole suite. Now, companies can use just the components they require for their solution. Companies are shifting from using all-encompassing applications to using “”componentized”” software, Lawrie said, discussing some of the trends in the industry.

“”Growth is back on the CEO agenda,”” he said. Companies, including Siebel, have spent the last three or four years cutting costs to drive efficiency. But now Siebel, like others, is seeking to grow, though this growth will be more difficult to achieve today.

Companies will also begin to concentrate on the front office, he said. They have already made significant investments on their back-end systems.

Siebel announced the availability of enterprise analytic applications and its intention to focus on industry verticals.

The new focus on industry is something S. Claire Lawrence, the senior business planner for marketing at Regina, Sask.-based SaskTel appreciates.

The telco has been using Siebel’s eSales for its Web site since June 2001 and also uses a Siebel sales force automation tool.

Currently, eSales is not connected to the company’s back end, and information has to be entered by representatives. Lawrence plans to eventually connect the systems.

The product hierarchy for the back-end side is different than the product hierarchy mapping needed for the Web side, which makes connecting the two together an intricate process, she said.

Lawrence would eventually like to use Siebel analytics to gather business intelligence information, but executives need to be brought on board first.

“”Our goal is to ultimately have one source of information.””

Though SaskTel customized its eSales application, this was done primarily because the product was new and immature at the time the telco implemented it, making customization a must, she said. However, the company did no customization to its Siebel sales force automation tool. Instead, the sales team changed its methods to fit the tool. This makes upgrading the product much easier, she said. The team really wanted a tool, so they didn’t resist the change, Lawrence said.

“”They didn’t want to use sticky notes any more,”” she said. The team eased into the adoption, so they didn’t have to learn everything at once.

Another Siebel user, Edmonton-based ATB Financial, is in the process of implementing a new front end for its tellers. The company first began using Siebel about four years ago when it put in a new call centre. All of the stakeholders agreed that creating a complete view of the office and continuous dialogue with the customer were the priorities, said Ken Casey, the senior vice-president of retail banking delivery.

This would prevent the need for customers to repeat their issues when they have to call into the centre more than once, he said. The company chose Siebel because it was a more complete solution, Casey said. However, like many a CRM user, ATB ended up taking advantage of only a fraction of the solution’s capabilities.

“”I was kind of appalled at how little (of the application) people use,”” he said. Because the system has been around for about four years, his staff starts to forget the functionality it has to offer.

“”I have guys running around looking for sales automation solutions. It’s there. You forget about what’s there after four years.””

Even though ATB has only tapped a portion of its CRM solution, it still managed to meet all its goals, including increased efficiency and an increase in revenue.

The company also looked into a CRM solution for its tellers, and chose Eontec, which was acquired by Siebel shortly after. Because the bank dealt with its customers through a variety of channels — the phone, the Internet and the teller — Casey thought it wise to build a middleware solution using IBM’s WebSphere to which he could connect the different front ends. ATB has gone through all the requirements for the teller application and hopes to roll out the solution next August or September.

The most important part of the implementation is making sure that users are on board he said. The users are ultimately the ones designing the look and feel of the system, he said.

“”I’m comfortable that our usability is right.””

ATB also experimented with Siebel’s utility solution, CRM OnDemand, for its sales force automation. But this, he said, was destined for failure because the sales processes hadn’t been defined yet. Also, executives didn’t endorse the solution and gave sales people the option of whether to use it or not. For the most part, they chose not to use it.

The CRM OnDemand offering opens up Siebel’s market, said Sheryl Kingstone, the Toronto-based program manager at Yankee Group Inc. It allows the vendor to offer its solution to small- and medium-sized businesses that do not have the infrastructure to purchase and implement a solution in-house, she said.

The Oracle bid for PeopleSoft puts Siebel at an advantage, she said, as new CRM customers unsure of PeopleSoft’s solution might turn to Siebel.

Lawrie refused to discuss the Oracle play for PeopleSoft when asked about it in a Q&A session with reporters, saying only that Siebel is concentrating on its own efforts.

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